On August 5, the Ambassador of the United States of America Robert S. Gilchrist, Vice Minister of National Defence Eimutis Misiūnas and other representatives of the Lithuanian and the U.S. Armed Forces visited Šiauliai Air Base to view and discuss the new infrastructure, which could provide necessary conditions for maintaining air defence tasks.
It was presented new ground equipment maintenance hangars, helicopter hangars, air operations center, three fighter aprons, up-to-date fighter arresting gear and lighting installation of one of the aprons, several taxiways and areas and roads for ground vehicles enhances readiness of the airbase. Elements of infrastructure were built on U.S. money almost 24 million euro.
Besides, it was discussed about possibility of increasing the number of hangars where are deployed fighters maintaining Baltic Air Policing mission from two to four. Moreover, according to the Lithuanian Defence Ministry plans, it was planned to expand airbase area by 33 hectares.
“U.S. investments into Lithuania’s defence infrastructure demonstrate that Lithuania remains among the important priorities of the U.S. defence policy. By strengthening capabilities of the Lithuanian Air Force Base, we are ensuring training conditions for U.S. and other NATO allies’ military units and contributing to a swift deployment of allies to the other Baltic States and Lithuania,” Vice Minister of National Defence Eimutis Misiūnas highlighted.
According to official Lithuanian representatives Lithuania continues to be considered as the place of the deployment of the key American military contingent in the Baltic region. However earlier it was known about the ground forces (logistics, army) and now we are informed about the possibility of deployment of the U.S. air component.
Moreover, all the necessary conditions for achieving it purpose are being created. Obviously, in the near future it is expected the expansion of the Baltic Air Policing mission and the deployment of the U.S. Air Force on a permanent basis in Šiauliai Air Base.
*Kasparas Jankauskas is a political journalist.